SAN ANTONIO – Moviegoers were caught by surprise this week when Santikos Entertainment posted a note on Bijou Cinema Bistro’s front door indicating the company planned to shutter the movie theater. Balcones Heights officials, however, were bracing for the closure.
And while Santikos’ exit is a loss for the city, its leaders are already pursuing potential new uses for one of the landmark anchors of the more-than-60-year-old Wonderland of the Americas mall.
“We did know that that was their plan,” Balcones Heights Mayor Suzanne de Leon said. “We just didn’t know the timeframe.”
Santikos saw its business shrink at Bijou. Multiple factors likely contributed to the decline, including the pandemic and the challenge malls have faced even before COVID-19 in attracting customers.
Santikos CEO Tim Handren said a dearth of new films that fit the Bijou’s arthouse niche didn’t help.
“We had a lease renewal coming up,” Handren said, noting that theaters reliant on art films especially are having a tougher time post-pandemic.
Santikos tried to fill in the gap with other first-run movies. It wasn’t financially sustainable, Handren said.
The mall has had a movie presence since the 1960s when it was home to Wonderland Theater. That venue eventually closed as the mall later added the larger, multiscreen theater acquired by Santikos nearly two decades ago.
In November, Balcones Heights purchased a nearly 46% ownership stake in Wonderland, a deal it had pursued for several months with the mall’s major stakeholder group, led by managing partner Sid Weiss. That deal was inspired in large part by the city’s interest in helping ensure a viable future for one of its more important properties.
The city’s mayor says there is interest in the theater site.
“There are some other prospects,” de Leon said, noting that those talks are ongoing.
Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.